Joshua Tillery, 31, was born and raised in a military family with relatives serving in several military conflicts, including the Vietnam War.
"He always wanted to go into the service," said Paula Trueax, his mother and McNary Heights Elementary school kindergarten teacher.
Tillery, a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, was killed Jan. 26 in northern Iraq in a helicopter crash that took the lives of three other soldiers.
"It was his second tour in Iraq," Trueax said. "He loved photography and took pictures while flying in his helicopter."
Trueax's husband and Tillery's step-father, Roger Trueax, said the family had heard from their son on the phone around Christmas, when he called his mother.
Paula added she had received a post card from her son 10 days before the accident. The card appropriately had a picture of Oregon on it.
"He wrote that he missed the state, someone must have sent them - the cards with pictures - to him," she said.
Roger, who is an employee at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, said their son was happy, but said things were different.
"Probably because they weren't as busy, but he said he was staying safe," Roger said.
Roger said his thoughts are with the three other families going through what their family is going through right now.
"They were all good friends, but we've received a lot of support from the military," he said.
While the military was the line of work their son desired, Roger and Paula remember him more for being a great family man.
"He lived for his family," Roger said.
Paula added that her son tried very hard to keep his work and his family separate, including not keeping any military accolades or symbols in his home.